Inside the Four Seasons hotel, Ethan Stowell’s newest restaurant, Goldfinch Tavern, benefits from what may be the greatest waterfront view in downtown Seattle. Floor-to-ceiling windows enlarge Elliott Bay, the Great Wheel and the Olympic Mountains to appear so close they could roll off the water and join your table for dinner. The view is an up close and personal experience.
The aesthetic matches. Textures that recall ship timbers make up much of the interior, with tones of blue, amber and charcoal. A massive rectangular bar, topped with quartzite and bound by coppery steel pipes, anchors the 183-seat dining room, which is now all one space rather than the previous layout in which the old lounge led to a traditional table dining area. Request a leather banquette by the windows and you can admire everything, including thick felt dangling like planks to absorb the sound from your neighbors.
Stowell and executive chef Joe Ritchie (formerly of Mkt.) have developed a strong seafood program to match the maritime vibe. You could certainly stop in for the popular beef tartare ($15) or shareable Goldfinch burger ($17), but I would rather set sail on an inspired seafood journey, starting with the hamachi crudo ($17), fresh, tender dominoes of yellowtail dressed with oily Taggiasca olives, pickled red onion and dots of chèvre. These dishes, in particular, are reminiscent of Stowell’s overall commitment to seafood. In other words, you can find similar dishes at Anchovies & Olives and How to Cook a Wolf. But the Four Seasons service and, again, that view punch up the experience a bit.
The beet salad ($15) is an item Stowell promises to keep on the menu, and you’ll want to tuck into its feathery chunks of sweet Dungeness crab and creamy, tarragon-tinged dressing. When he’s not working, Ritchie nurtures a rooftop garden of 50 herbs at his home in West Seattle, a reminder of his early days with Jerry Traunfeld both at Poppy and The Herbfarm. I love the way he uses fresh dill or rosemary to brighten french fries.
The house-smoked salmon toast
Then there’s the house-smoked salmon ($12), easily the best buy on the menu. Ritchie uses the trim from whole, wild salmon to make a chunky salad with olive oil, lemon juice, pickled red onion and a bevy of spring herbs. The mixture is piled onto four big slices of grilled baguette. It’s sensational and filling. Stowell’s intention for his 12th restaurant (named for the state bird of Washington) was to connect visitors to the Pacific Northwest via local, natural products and memorable preparations. By year’s end, he plans to roll out a wine pairing and tasting menu, which he hopes will cement Goldfinch Tavern as one of downtown’s best restaurants. We’d say he’s off to a great start. Downtown, 99 Union St.; 206.749.7070; goldfinchtavern.com.